At the University of Kentucky Dairy Farm, milk cows are singing anything but the blues.

The staff, students and faculty there have been putting a lot of effort into making them more comfortable with bigger stalls, rotating grooming brushes and, yes, even waterbeds. 

On the surface it may all sound very luxurious, but Jeffrey Bewley said it goes way beyond that.

“Our interest is in creating happy farmers and happy cows simultaneously,” the UK assistant dairy Extension professor said. “Providing cows with a comfortable environment is important for their well-being. The solutions we are studying show potential for reducing problem cows and increasing production and cow longevity, thus they may benefit the dairy farmer too.

“As consumers become more in tune with the lives of production animals, it is important that we look for these win-win situations.”

Earlier this fall, the UK Dairy Farm staff installed rotating brushes so cows could groom and scratch themselves. During the research period, cows either had access or no access for 10-day intervals.

“I observed that when cows did not have access, they would stand under the pole that would typically hold the brush,” said Randi Black, UK graduate student in Animal and Food Sciences. “This makes me think they have incorporated it into their regular and habitual grooming process. Cows are willing to use the brush and seem to really enjoy using it.”